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PL Sunday preview: Man City, Spurs visit relegation favorites

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Title/top-four contenders v. relegation favorites — that’s the name of the game on Sunday, when a pair of Premier League giants visit the bottom two teams in the league table…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Huddersfield v. Man City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for 20th-place Huddersfield Town: the Terriers’ eight-game losing streak came to an end last weekend. The (still) bad news: a 0-0 draw against one of the other two teams currently occupying a relegation spot, Cardiff City, didn’t very little to chip away at what is now a 10-point gap between themselves and safety. Steady worse news, depending on how you look at it: manager David Wagner stepped down on Monday, leaving the club with interim boss Mark Hudson in charge. The (far) worse news: second-place, and resurgent, Manchester City are set to visit John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday.

Liverpool ground out a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday to stretch the Reds’ lead back to seven points in the title race. Put simply, Sunday’s fixture is a must-win scenario for Pep Guardiola‘s side, no matter the opponent, but doubly — or, triply — so against a side like Huddersfield. After losing three out of four PL games in mid-December, the defending champions have regained a bit of form in their last three games, winning all three — including a season-saving victory over Liverpool — and conceding just two goals in the process. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are back amongst the goals, having between them scored five of the eight during the current run.

INJURIES: Huddersfield —  OUT: Aaron Mooy (knee), Danny Williams (knee) | Man City — OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Vincent Kompany (undisclosed)


Fulham v. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Tottenham’s latest spell without star striker Harry Kane (ankle) begins on Sunday, with a trip to Craven Cottage to take on relegation-threatened Fulham. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will also be without Kane’s most logical replacement, Son Heung-min, as he is with the South Korea squad at the Asian Cup. Kane was lost for up to two months in last weekend’s narrow defeat to Manchester United, a result which saw Spurs fall five points back of City and their respective leads on Chelsea (one point) and Arsenal and Man United (then seven, but since reduced to four) eroded as well. Either Fernando Llorente will start up top, or Pochettino will opt for a striker-less formation and rely upon the fluidity and attacking versatility of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela.

As for Fulham, the Cottagers wish their greatest concern was as simple as losing a forward or two. Instead, Claudio Ranieri‘s side sits 19th after 22 games, now seven points (and another 17 goals in the goal-differential column) adrift of safety following Newcastle United’s emphatic victory over fellow relegation battlers Cardiff on Saturday. With just one win in their last nine league games (two in their last 19; three all season), the west London club’s return to the PL appears to be a one-season wonder before an immediate drop back down to the Championship. Having conceded 49 goals in 22 games, Fulham are on pace to give up 87 goals. The last side to concede more 80 goals in a season was — you guessed it — Fulham (85), the last time they were relegated in 2013-14.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee), Aboubakar Kamara (disciplinary) | Tottenham — OUT: Harry Kane (ankle), Lucas Moura (knee), Moussa Sissoko (groin), Victor Wanyama (knee)

Premier League odds: Chelsea matchweek away favorite at Arsenal

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The reality an away-team win could be in both clubs’ interest might be the place to start with this week’s Super Sunday matchup.

Chelsea is the +135 away favorite on the Premier League odds with host Arsenal coming back at +205, while the draw is priced at +260 on the three-way moneyline and there is a 3.0-goals total for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

[ MORE: Bundesliga 2nd half preview ]

Chelsea, which has three consecutive one-goal wins in its last three away matches, could all but eliminate Arsenal from top-four contention (and the automatic berth in the 2019-20 Champions League), and a Gunners side thinned-out by injuries and turmoil might welcome the chance to put more of its eggs in the Europa League basket.

Eden Hazard (+400 first goal scorer, -125 anytime) will likely feature for Chelsea now that Alvaro Morata is shipping off to Atletico Madrid of Spain. Chelsea by 1 Goal (+350) and Either Team 2-1 (+350) offer good value in Winning Margin and Correct Score Group props at online sports betting sites.

Elsewhere this weekend, Wolverhampton (+130) has won or drawn against Leicester City (+245, draw +225) in nine of their last 10 home matchups and the inconsistent Foxes’ last six away matches have all finished UNDER 2.5 goals. There is a little more value with looking at Wolverhampton 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 (+185) in Correct Score Group props, and Raul Jimenez (+500 first goal scorer, +200 anytime) should be a factor offensively.

Liverpool (-500) and Crystal Palace (+1500, draw +600), in relative terms, both have strong scoring trends with the Reds having scored at least three goals in their last three home games and the Eagles having netted twice in each of their last three away games. Liverpool win/yes (+150) and Yes/Over 2.5 (+125) are the percentage plays in Both Teams To Score props.

Newcastle United (EVEN) and Cardiff City (+335, draw +230) are both in the relegation zone and reeling of late, with Newcastle winless in five games while Cardiff has banked only one win its last seven games (all competitions). Newcastle has injuries to key cogs such as Jamaal Lascelles (hamstring) and Isaac Hayden (back). Those factors make Cardiff enticing on the double chance (+180), while tie/no (+800), that is betting on a 0-0 draw, has good value in Both Teams To Score Props.

Huddersfield Town (+2000) hosting Manchester City (-650, draw +700) for a Sunday  matchup right after sacking manager David Wagner begs the question of how to divine some Man City betting values. The any other score (+175) in Correct Score Group props covers the possibility of City scoring four or more goals in a win where it also concedes; it’s the same payout as No/Over 2.5 in Both Teams To Score props.

And Fulham (+425) hosts a Tottenham (-125, draw +255) side in its first game since learning Harry Kane (ankle) will be out until March. The overall trends, though, show that Fulham’s last six home games against Tottenham have gone OVER 2.5 goals, and the visiting Spurs have won seven of their last nine away games. Kane’s absence could make Tottenham try new modes of attack and winger Dele Alli (+600 first scorer, +200 anytime) could capitalize.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

David Wagner out at Huddersfield Town

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David Wagner is out as Huddersfield Town manager.

The German coach has seen his side lose eight of their last nine Premier League games as the Terriers are rock bottom of the table and eight points from safety with 16 games to go.

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His charisma, passion and connection with the fans will be missed as the former U.S. men’s national team striker masterminded Huddersfield’s return to the top-flight for the first time since 1972.

Huddersfield chairman and owner Dean Hoyle confirmed that the club and Wagner had agreed he would depart by mutual consent.

“I’d like to begin by thanking David for all he has achieved at Huddersfield over the last three-and-a-half years,” Hoyle said. “His achievements will rightly put him up there in Town history alongside great names like Herbert Chapman and Mick Buxton. As I had said previously, I had no intention of sacking David this season. Subsequently David – being the great man he is – came to us and made it clear that he needs a break from the rigours of football management.

“We discussed making that change immediately, but he also made it clear that he would give his all for the rest of this season before departing in the summer if we preferred. After a long discussion we all felt that David staying at the Club until the end of the season was best, but we’ve kept discussions open and we all now feel that the time is right to part ways. I know the term mutual consent is often a byword for the manager being sacked in professional football, but this is a truly joint decision. David has genuine love fo Huddersfield rand his foremost concern in our talks has been to establish what is best for the club.”

Wagner, 47, arrived at Huddersfield in November 2015 and transformed a struggling second-tier team to one which finished in the Championship playoffs in the 2016-17 season and then sealed their first-ever promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs in May 2017.

Huddersfield then upset the odds to stay in the Premier League in the 2017-18 season, as Wagner worked wonders on a tiny budget to keep them in the top-flight.

Wagner’s final game in charge proved to be a controversial 0-0 draw at relegation rivals Cardiff City, as the Terriers were awarded a penalty kick in the second half but referee Lee Mason then reversed his decision after consulting his linesman.

The Terriers face Manchester City on Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and their former center back and current member of the coaching staff, Mark Hudson, will take charge for that game as Huddersfield look to who can take charge next.

Sam Allardyce is the bookmakers favorite to become the next Huddersfield manager and although he has previous in keeping teams in the Premier League, this is a huge challenge to take on.

Scoring goals has been a massive problem for the Terriers this season, as they’ve won just two of their 22 games so far and are the lowest scorers in the PL with just 13 goals scored.

Still, Wagner’s departure has not been met kindly by plenty of Huddersfield fans who may have believed he was the right man to start preparing them for a promotion push next season as their relegation from the Premier League seems almost inevitable.

Wagner worked miracles to get Huddersfield in the top-flight in the first place and that will never be forgotten in the Yorkshire town.

Huddersfield need an even bigger miracle if they’re going to stay in the Premier League this season.

What we learned in the Premier League

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Seven games took place in the Premier League on Saturday and we learned plenty at both ends of the table.

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Huddersfield and Fulham will both be frustrated as their bad luck continued, while Liverpool and Chelsea held their nerve and there were big wins for Watford, Southampton, Burnley and West Ham.

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Here’s a look at the key takeaways from Saturday’s PL action.


Liverpool respond with gritty away win
It wasn’t pretty but Liverpool regained a seven-point lead atop the Premier League table as Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty kick to beat Brighton 1-0. This was the kind of test Liverpool had to pass if they’re going to win the Premier League this season. After back-to-back defeats against Man City (in the Premier League) and Wolves (in the FA Cup), this was a big statement from Liverpool. Playing at a well-organized Brighton is always tough but Jurgen Klopp‘s side made relatively light work of it as their defensive injuries didn’t hamper their charge towards the Premier League title. Of course, there are bigger tests ahead but they don’t arrive for a while. The next time they play a top six side is the trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United on Feb. 24. Between now and then there are plenty of tricky tests against teams they are supposed to beat sandwiched between their UEFA Champions League last 16 clashes against Bayern Munich. Liverpool were far from their best at Brighton, but they got the job done with minimal fuss as they were back to being ruthlessly efficient, and solid, just as they were at the start of the campaign. That is a very good sign for Klopp after the disappointment of the last week.


Emery’s Ozil problem not going away
Arsenal lost 1-0 at West Ham on Saturday and Unai Emery‘s post-game press conference was dominated by one person: Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was not in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for the London derby and Emery said that was because “the players who were here are the players who deserved to be in this match.” That is yet another ominous statement from Emery for Ozil, as the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history is the biggest headache Arsenal’s new manager has. The defending wasn’t as bad as it has been at times this season in the defeat at West Ham, but you could say that Ozil’s creativity would have been handy as Arsenal had plenty of the ball but couldn’t break down a stubborn West Ham defense. They are now six points off fourth-place Chelsea and could be overtaken by Manchester United in the next few weeks, and all of the momentum Emery had from that 22-game unbeaten run has evaporated with away defeats at Southampton, Liverpool and now West Ham, as they’ve had no victories in their last four PL away games. This poor away form is all getting very similar to Arsene Wenger‘s final season in charge…

Talking of Wenger, he oversaw Ozil, 30, signing a new bumper contract in January and he is guaranteed huge sums of cash. Ozil has only appeared in 16 games in all competitions this season and Emery clearly doesn’t trust him, as he’s said before, in away games against feisty, dedicated opponents. Ozil is a luxury player who is excellent, when given the chance, against lesser opponents at home but it doesn’t appear that the high-pressing, more defensive style Emery prefers can carry any passengers against more aggressive opponents. If Arsenal aren’t going to use Ozil, they have to loan him out or sell him in January. With his huge wages that will be tough and an argument can be made that Arsenal needed him at West Ham to unlock a defense and create chances in only the way he can. Emery’s issue with Ozil, on or off the pitch, has to be resolved one way or another as it threatens to derail their season.


Puel’s time at Leicester coming to an end
The boos rang out at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City lost 2-1 to Southampton, with Claude Puel‘s time in charge of the Foxes surely coming to an end soon. After their big wins against Chelsea, Man City and Everton over the festive period, all was well. But three-straight defeats to Cardiff, fourth-tier Newport County in the FA Cup and now an injury-hit Saints (who played over 55 minutes with 10-men) have cemented what many Leicester fans have been saying: Puel is not getting the best out of this team consistently. His decision to play three defensive midfielders against Saints was baffling, as the likes of Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes sat on the bench and made a big difference in the second half. Leicester play extremely well against the big boys as they have less of the ball and their squad of players have perfected the art of counter-attacking. Against the teams they are supposed to beat they just aren’t able to break them down, as Puel’s belief in ball rotation, slow build-up and keeping possession doesn’t play to the strengths of this squad. After a testing year off the pitch for Leicester, Puel has brought some stability. He is a good, honest man who has brought plenty of Leicester’s young players to another level but it looks like he may get the hook soon. There is no chance of Leicester being relegated this season, so now is a good time to bring in a manager who can get the best out of this group and kick them on in their pursuit of Europa League qualification.


Huddersfield, Fulham in danger of being cut adrift
The bad luck continued for two relegation battlers as Fulham scored two own goals to lose at Burnley and Huddersfield had a penalty kick awarded, then overturned at Cardiff. In two six-pointers they both came up short and all of a sudden Huddersfield are eight points from safety and Fulham are five points (basically six points, given their goal difference) from staying up. Given their respective schedules in the next few weeks as they play plenty of the big boys, they are likely to be cut adrift. David Wagner is doing all he can with limited resources at Huddersfield, while the jury is out as to whether Claudio Ranieri was ever the right hire for Fulham. Both teams have shown they can hang in games but the little things are going against them as Saturday proved. Their fortunes will have to change quickly if they’re going to drag themselves out of the relegation zone with 16 games to go. There is almost a resignation among the Huddersfield fans that they are doing down, while Fulham will be at that stage very quickly. 

Wagner slams officials as “clear” penalty kick overturned

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David Wagner was not a happy man after Huddersfield’s 0-0 draw at Cardiff City on Saturday.

The Terriers dominated the game and thought they had been given the opportunity to score from the penalty spot late in the second half after Joe Bennett brought down Florent Hadergjonaj in the box and referee Lee Mason awarded a penalty kick.

However, Mason consulted his linesman and overturned the decision to award Huddersfield a penalty.

That decision could be pivotal in their season as the Terriers remain bottom of the Premier League table, without a win in nine games and eight points from safety.

“There are four people in black and you have to ask them what was going on. I spoke to the linesman during the match and he said ‘the first incident was not a foul and the second I don’t know’ but I don’t know what he means,” Wagner fumed. “It was clearly a penalty, the video footage speaks for itself and we have not got it. It makes no sense to waste my energy for something like this, but it was a big mistake. I really can’t find the words how this can happen. The fourth official had no idea either, he was as surprised as everyone else was. Decisions like this make tables and seasons. We have had so many decisions against us and I don’t know why. The boys left everything on the grass, and only one team deserved something out of the game. One point is not enough, we needed to win.”

Cardiff’s manager Neil Warnock had a slightly different view on the penalty decision…

“I think it is good there was an experienced linesman. There was not enough contact for a penalty and the linesman made him change his mind. If that had won them the game I would’ve been disappointed,” Warnock told BBC’s Match of the Day.

There is no doubt there was contact on Hadergjonaj and although Warnock stated that the Huddersfield player was lucky to not give away a penalty in the first half for catching Junior Hoilett, he knows that Cardiff got away with one here.

You can count on one hand the times when a referee has given a penalty kick then trusted his linesman to overturn the decision, and in this case there really wasn’t that much evidence to suggest it wasn’t a penalty kick. The contact was clear, although no forceful, and Mason was pretty clear with his original decision.

When you are down the bottom like Huddersfield are, these are the kind of things which go against you and the Terriers can feel hard done by as they dominated the game and if either team deserved to win it was them.